We are at a point where sometimes it feels like week after week of the same. It can be difficult to continue to focus on God and maintain good attitudes when we are still so limited in our ability to minister. Limited by language, by cultural understanding, by all the limitations we had before we got here, and I was already sufficiently limited. We get some opportunities to minister, some opportunities to love but the grammar for deep conversations about the faith still eludes me. It gives us much time to think, pray, grow as a family but can also be lonely. If we let it, it would lead to discouragement, thoughts of going home, justification of what we learned here and how that can apply anywhere in the world (true). Maybe God brought us here to teach us to plant churches in the US, maybe He did but He certainly isn’t moving us there now.
We go out to restaurants, the kids go to school, we are helping begin a lunch program at church, I go to the prison for boys once a week. Truthfully we get more opportunities than we realize to be missionaries but when you have a language barrier it seems like you aren’t doing anything. You are forced to rely on others, really you are relying on God. It is healthy, we are being stripped from the process.
At the same time God is speaking to us about what it means to be a missionary (understand, there isn’t a universally right answer to this question). For us, we desire to see lost come to Christ. This is missions, the geography doesn’t matter. We are trying to increase our exposure to people who don’t know Jesus. We are trying to be braver, to step out and try things.
One thing we tried and may try again was an English practice group. It didn’t really take off and became clear to me it wouldn’t. It gave me some more insight into the culture I am trying to reach. They are group oriented, they make decisions to do or not do things with friends. They really don’t do much alone. We have seen this ordering pizza too. In the states if a group of friends is going to order pizza one or two of us take charge, maybe ask an opinion or two and then order a stack of pizzas. Pepperoni, sausage, supreme, cheese for the kids. Here you talk to everyone find out what they like, everyone is more concerned about what everyone else likes and so on. It takes time and I theorize that in the end you may not get the pizza any one person wanted but some sort of compromise. Perhaps it is why they have so many different toppings on one pizza.
What does this mean. It means we have to seek to become part of the groups of people around us that already exist. There is a sports bar/pizza shop down the street. We need to spend more time there. His son goes to school with our kids. Other families go there. It means I need to find a way to go fishing. To engage people in a hobby I enjoy. It means Melissa should think about running, marathons, triathlons. It means the kids are the best missionaries in the family.
This week at the prison one boy really seemed touched. He said he wanted relationship with God but got a bit nervous when we suggested he talk to God. I believe many of them are coming to Christ through what God is doing there it just may not look like what we are used too. Also delivering food after lunch at the church to one of the favelas was a reminder of the need to break inside there and present the gospel. It is a factory of hurt, pain, broken relationship.
Pray for us, we are at a point where we need to put another effort into learning more language. Tim said to me when I first got here study a little practice a lot. In effect that is what I have done but less study then perhaps I should have. We go through periods of lessons, reading books, Rosetta Stone then I go out and try it. I learn for a while just practicing then hit a wall and need a bit more study to begin learning again. This is how I learned wood working, cooking, a bit about mechanics. I don’t know the terms for almost anything in wood working but can do much. I would like to do a crash course in a language school but seem to get my time eaten up by normal life. When I looked into it before a lot of visa process came up. People assume because I am American I have lots of money and the language schools try and gouge me.
Also pray for a car. We don’t know if we will stay in Foz long term but God brought us to Brazil to learn about missions, learn Portuguese, touch peoples lives, disciple people to reach the poor. This will take at least a couple more years. Even if God is one day going to call us to a less reached nation. I long to go fishing, we want to go to the lake as a family. We want to be able to deliver food, go buy food easily. This is all very difficult without a vehicle. We are thankful in all things, thankful God knows our needs.